The sister in-laws
Veterans’ Voices is a new column directed toward veterans and their families who have given so much to ensure our freedom in this country. This is an area where you may share your experiences, or read of other veterans’ experiences. We thank you for your service, and hope that you know how much you are loved and appreciated.
I mentioned prior that while I was in Vietnam, I had five close buddies that I spent 24 hours a day with in the jungle. We would always talk about when we get back to the “world,” we would get together. I was the only one that made it back. They all paid the ultimate price.
I thought of ways that I could give back. So, I volunteered for years at the VA hospital, helping disabled veterans with their paperwork for disability claims. I remember one incident that I will never forget.
Two young ladies walked in my office. One about 25 years old and the other one about 35 years old. They were sisters-in-law. During the process of gathering information for the claim, I had to ask a lot of questions. In the middle of one question, the younger one started to cry and ran out of my office. I apologized to the other one, thinking I said something out of sort. She said that I didn’t, but she needs to explain a few things to me about the other one.
She told me that her brother was married to the younger one. They had two young children. Her husband spent two tours in Iraq. Came home and could not transition back in town. Got into drugs and alcohol as a self-medication. He had attempted to commit suicide twice and had succeeded the week prior. Her sister-in-law and the kids moved in with her and her husband. That’s the reason they were there seeking any kind of help from the government. I told her that I would do my best, but is it not my call. The VA would have to determine the qualification for any kind of compensation.
The other lady came back, and I apologized. I also explained to them that I was fairly new, and I would have to call my boss at the VA to determine what paperwork would be necessary for this, since I did not have any experience with this type of claim. I asked them to return in a week so I would have enough time to call my boss and find out what forms to use. She proceeded to tell me that she was leaving for Texas the next day due to her in-laws living there, would be staying there for the next 6 months and would call me when they return. I told them that I wanted to get it going before they leave, so I asked what time their plane leaves the next day. They said at 2:30 p.m. I asked them to return the next morning and I made copies of all of their information for the claim.
They left. I called my boss and explained the situation to him asking if we can get this done and expedite it. He said that I got my hands full and proceeded to give me all of the form numbers to fill out and have her sign.
There must have been 50 forms (I’m exaggerating), to fill out. I stayed there until late that night working on all of the forms. Came in at 4 a.m. the next morning to finish them. About 11 a.m., they returned. I was just printing out the last form when they walked in.
I had her sign all of them. She asked me how long something like this takes. I told her, again, I was fairly new and could not tell her. She thanked me and started to leave. What I didn’t know was her two children were waiting outside. The oldest one came back to my office and knocked on the door. I know she could not have been 10 years old. She asked me if she could come in. I told her sure.
She came up to me and asked me if I knew her Dad. I told her that I didn’t. She said that she sure does miss him. I told her that I did know that he was a true hero. She said that she knew that. I told her to come closer because I wanted to tell her a secret. I whispered in her ear, “Whenever you get lonely and miss your dad, close your eyes, put you hand over your heart and think real hard so you can see him.” I told her lets try it. So, she closed her eyes and you could see her facial expressions that she was really trying. She said, “I can see him. I can see him.”
She thanked me and started to exit my office. I was doing my best to keep back the tears. She turned around, ran back, and hugged my neck and left. I shut my door and cried for 15 minutes. I was thinking about those two kids growing up without their dad.
Anyway, I sent the claim in. She called me about 2 weeks later from Texas, telling me that they are going to expedite the claim, and she should be receiving compensation very soon. I was so happy for them. I will never forget that family. Their dad was a true American Hero.
He paid the ultimate price to keep us free. I think of them every day when I see my flag in my front and back yard.
Any comments, please email me at AboutVets@yahoo.com.
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— Royal D. Goodman, U.S. Army/Vietnam,
1st Cav, 9th Infantry